AMD has revealed a number of surprising and interesting developments regarding their next-generation GPUs.
Going into 2014, AMD has four pillars that support their products and what they’re trying to do with them; these are: Graphics Core Next (GCN, AMD’s GPU architecture), AMD TrueAudio, Super-high resolution gaming and Mantle, a new low-level API used exclusively with AMD’s products.
TrueAudio is AMD’s vision for improving sound in games, accelerating sound production on the GPU instead of on the CPU. AMD says that tricks like positional audio, multi-channel downsampling, convolution reverb (sound physics for different environments) and high definition sound sandbags processor performance, and leaves developers with little room for adding in better sound effects.
TrueAudio is also a software standard, allowing for a consistent experience across different platforms despite hardware changes. TrueAudio enables positional audio to be used in nearly any game and with stereo headphones, removing the need for expensive hardware in virtual surround sound headsets.
On AMD R200-series graphics cards there is a dedicated TrueAudio chip that does all the TrueAudio processing, removing the load from the CPU and freeing up the extra performance for other things.
TrueAudio does not negate the need for onboard or discrete sound cards, however. AMD and its partners still believe that the audio industry is a crucial component in the PC.
AMD also says that TrueAudio allows game developers to do some things they’ve never tried before, like modelling sound into different game environments (convolution reverb) to make the experience more immersive.
TrueAudio also applies to consoles. If game developers use TrueAudio on their console games they can port it over to the PC without having to re-code for any new hardware. TrueAudio is multi-platform capable, implying that it is possible to see it run on Mac OS X and Linux in the near future.
For the high-resolution gaming market, AMD has been working with the VESA standards board and with monitor manufacturers to improve compatibility with their Eyefinity technology as well as allow for UltraHD 4K displays to be automatically set up without the user having to do so manually.
This is because UltraHD 4K displays currently require users to set up an Eyefinity group to use the monitor correctly and the VESA standard previously did not officially recognise the methods required to get these displays to work.
This also means that UltraHD 4K monitors with upgradeable firmware will be able to receive the improvement. The first monitor to support this new technology is the Panasonic Viera, with a UltraHD 4K panel and HDMI 2.0 support.
AMD’s last announcement was Mantle, a new API (Application Programming Interface) that was developed in collaboration with DICE and will be first used in Battlefield 4. Mantle replaces DirectX 11 for anyone running an AMD graphics card and brings the same code optimisations found on consoles to the PC, enabling better performance on Radeon graphics cards.
Mantle is also a low-level API, removing the performance overheads and hits when running DirectX or OpenGL in Windows. Yes, it does remind one of the API wars back when we had Glide, Voodoo, S3, Matrox and every other GPU manufacturer with their own idea of how things should be, but developers coming from the new consoles should be familiar with Mantle already, making porting easier.
Mantle is directly lifted from AMD’s work on the next-generation consoles (they didn’t say which one) and is open-source, available to any game developer wishing to implement it.
Mantle’s initial implementation will be in games running Frostbite 3.0 by EA. Battlefield 4 will be the first game to show it off and the Mantle update will be available in December 2013, according to DICE. An important part of the Mantle API is that it is cross-platform, implying that it is also able to be used on operating systems like Mac OS X and Linux.
Although AMD hasn’t said which hardware will be required, Mantle currently only works with GCN-based graphics cards.
More details about Mantle will be revealed at AMD’s GPU developer summit in November 2013.